The sweltering heat that year in 2013 chased people away to seek refuge in their homes. Those who were outdoors looked for shaded areas as their clothes were drenched in sweat, leaving dark patches on the colourful bright cloth. Next to the ELITE highway is the Kuala North Langat Forest Reserve (KLNFR), where animals were scampering away from the raging forest fire. 300 hectares were burnt to crisp.
The Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) is a gazetted permanent reserved forest that is impressive as its acronym. It is home to rare and critically endangered species such as Meranti Bakau, the Malayan Sun Bear and the Langat Red Fighting Fish. It even has its own unique species, the Selangor pygmy flying squirrel.
More than 60% of KLNFR are forested areas which means it houses natural habitats of significance or critical importance.
Like many peatlands, KLNFR is critical for preserving biodiversity, safe drinking water, minimise flood risk and mitigate climate change through carbon storage. And for the Temuan indigenous tribe, it is their home for more than 150 years.
So what happened to the magnificent forest after the fire?
Since 2015, the Temuan worked with several bodies to restore the affected forest. Together with Global Environment Centre, a local environmental non-profit and non-governmental organization, and Selangor State Forestry Department, they re-planted more than 10,000 trees, blocked drainage canals, to re-wet the peat swamp forest and carried out patrolling in the forest to prevent and control forest fire. The result was 90% of the damaged forest has recovered and there has been only one fire incident over the last five years.
The KLNFR has somewhat reverted to its majestic state.
Peat swamp forests are valuable and they do not form quickly. It takes thousands of years for peatlands to form and the KLNFR is estimated to be around 8,000 years old. If there is one thing that we could learn from the Orang Asli is to see our forests beyond commodity.
This article was contributed by our partner, Global Environment Centre (GEC) to commemorate #EarthDay2020 for #EarthWeek. Hasanah and GEC are working on a river conservation project in the Ulu Kinta Basin in Perak, together with various local communities. GEC is also currently running a campaign to save the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) from being cleared.